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Full text of "US Department Of State Country Report On PNG On Human Rights Practices For 2012"

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Papua New Guinea is a constitutional, federal, multiparty, parliamentary 
democracy. On August 3, Peter O'Neill became prime minister again after 
national parliamentary elections in June. Citizens generally accepted election 
results, but election observers expressed concern about instances of violence, 
fraud, and significant, widespread procedural deficiencies that they believed 
affected the results in some provinces. Security forces reported to civilian 
authorities, but there were some instances in which they acted independently of 
civilian control. 

The principal human rights abuses were severe police abuse of detainees; violence 
and discrimination against women; and vigilante killings and abuses, some related 
to alleged involvement in sorcery and witchcraft. 

Other human rights problems included poor prison conditions; lengthy pretrial 
detention; infringement of citizens' privacy rights, particularly in highland areas; 
government corruption; abuse and sexual exploitation of children; trafficking in 
persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; intertribal violence; and 
ineffective enforcement of labor laws. 

Despite minor reforms to the justice system, the government frequently failed to 
prosecute or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security 
services or elsewhere in the government. Impunity was pervasive. 

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: 

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life 

The government or its agents did not commit arbitrary or unlawful killings 
however, public concern about police violence persisted. 

In August the National newspaper reported police allegedly beat a primary school 
teacher in Port Moresby after he sent a student home for failing to wear a proper 
uniform. The student's father, a policeman, reportedly punched the teacher in front 
of other teachers and students on the school grounds, and his police colleagues also 
assaulted the teacher after they detained him. Police detained the teacher for more 
than two hours and released him after he was forced to apologize to the policemen 


and pay them K100 ($50). At year's end police neither conducted an investigation 
nor brought charges against any of the officers involved. In October 201 1 a group 
of traditional landowners in the East New Britain Province opposed to a 
controversial oil palm project told the media that they had been assaulted by 
drunken police officers. The police commissioner ordered an investigation into the 
allegations. At year's end no results had come out of the investigation. 

In December 201 1 the police commissioner issued an order withdrawing all police 
from logging camps after allegations that police were abusing their powers in 
dealing with opponents of logging. There were claims police in logging camps had 
been involved in beating people with iron bars and fan belts, raiding villages in the 
middle of the night, and drunkenness. At year's end authorities had not conducted 
an investigation brought no charges against any officers. 

b. Disappearance 

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 

Although the constitution prohibits torture, individual police members frequently 
beat and otherwise abused suspects during arrests and interrogations and in pretrial 
detention. There were numerous press accounts of such abuses, particularly 
against young detainees. 

Prison and Detention Center Conditions 

Despite minor improvements to existing cells and increased capacity, prison 
conditions remained poor, and the prison system continued to suffer from serious 
underfunding. Neither prisons nor police detention centers had proper medical 
care facilities. Overcrowding in prisons and police cells remained a serious 
problem in some facilities. 

Physical Conditions : At year's end there were 4,134 inmates, with overcrowding 
existing in some of the prisons. According to the correctional services 
commissioner, all but five of the country's prisons experienced overcrowding 
during the year. The holding capacity of the country's prisons was 4,366 beds. Of 
the total number of inmates, almost one-third were pretrial detainees. There were 
259 female inmates. Within the inmate population, there were 2,840 convicted 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


prisoners, 1,140 pretrial detainees, and 154 male juveniles, consisting of 
90 convicted prisoners and 64 pretrial detainees. Australian assistance continued 
toward upgrading these facilities. Despite minor maintenance work underway, two 
prisons, in Tari, Southern Highlands, and Dam, Western Province, remained closed 
during the year due to tribal conflicts and unresolved health issues, respectively. 

In some areas infrequent court sessions, slow police investigations, and bail 
restrictions for certain crimes continued to exacerbate overcrowding. Authorities 
usually held male and female inmates separately, but some rural prisons lacked 
separate facilities, and there were reports in the past of assaults on female 
prisoners. Authorities held pretrial detainees in the same prisons as convicted 
prisoners but had separate cells. 

During the year, 13 of the country's 19 prison facilities had separate 
accommodations for juvenile offenders; the remaining six did not. The Catholic 
Church operated three juvenile reception centers to hold minors awaiting 
arraignment prior to posting of bail. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that 
authorities routinely held juveniles with adults in police detention cells, where they 
were often assaulted by older detainees. Police denied juvenile court officers 
access to police cells. 

Death in prisons or pretrial centers was not prevalent during the year, and prisoners 
had reasonable access to potable water. A number of prisons experienced 
problems with lack of adequate ventilation and lighting. 

Administration : Prison authorities permitted prisoners reasonable access to visitors 
and permitted religious observance. Authorities allowed prisoners and detainees to 
submit credible complaints of inhumane conditions without censorship to the 
Ombudsman Commission for investigation or directly to the judicial authorities. 
The government mandated the Ombudsman Commission to visit prisons but could 
not effectively monitor and investigate prison conditions due to lack of adequate 
funds and staff. There were no known steps taken to improve recordkeeping or use 
alternatives to sentencing for nonviolent offenders. 

Monitoring : The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human 
rights observers, but no visits occurred during the year. 

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government 
generally observed these prohibitions. 

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus 

The national police force maintains internal security in all regions of the country. 
Special autonomy provisions apply to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. 
The commissioner who directs the national police force reports to the minister for 
police. The government allows the national police force to enforce national law on 
Bougainville. In addition, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville maintains its 
own police force which reports through its head to the minister of police of the 
Autonomous Region of Bougainville. The national police force has authority to 
ensure that the Bougainville Police is enforcing national law. Divisions related to 
clan rivalries and a serious lack of resources diminished police effectiveness and 
hampered internal security activities. Police impunity was also a serious problem. 

The police department's Internal Affairs Office investigates and a coroner's court 
reviews police shootings. If the court finds that the shooting was unjustifiable or 
due to negligence, authorities try the police officers involved. Families of persons 
killed or injured by police may challenge the coroner's finding in the National 
Court, with the assistance of the Public Solicitor. A coroner's court also 
investigates and reviews cases of police shootings of bystanders during police 
operations. Despite these prescribed procedures, in many cases investigations 
remained unresolved. This was largely due to a lack of funding and resources to 
complete investigations, especially in rural areas where the shootings often 
occurred; police officers' reluctance to give evidence against their own; and public 
fear of retribution from police, resulting in a lack of credible witnesses coming 
forward. An ombudsman commission deals with public complaints and concerns 
about members of the police force. The Australian Federal Police provided 
assistance to the national police force designed to improve professional capacity. 
Training provided under this reform-oriented program included units designed to 
improve police respect for human rights. 

Societal violence, particularly between tribes, is commonplace. Police frequently 
lacked sufficient personnel or resources to prevent or respond effectively. Warring 
tribal factions in rural areas had better arms than local police, and authorities often 
tolerated inter-tribal violence in isolated rural areas until the tribes themselves 
agreed to a negotiated settlement. 

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


Under the law, to make an arrest police must have reason to believe that a crime 
was committed, is being committed, or will be committed. A warrant is not 
required, and police made most arrests without one. Police, prosecutors, and 
citizens may apply to a court for a warrant; however, police normally did so only if 
they believed it would assist them in carrying out an arrest. Only National or 
Supreme Court judges may grant bail to persons charged with willful murder or 
aggravated robbery. In all other cases, police or magistrates may grant bail. 
Arrested suspects have the right to legal counsel, to be informed of the charges 
against them, and to have their arrests subjected to judicial review; however, the 
government did not always respect these rights. Detainees had access to counsel, 
and family members had access to detainees. 

Pretrial Detention : Approximately 29 percent of the prisoner or detainee 
population was in pretrial detention. No reliable statistics existed on the average 
length of time an inmate is held in pretrial detention. Anecdotal evidence indicated 
that detainees, who are unable to obtain bail, have been held for up to two years 
awaiting trial. Due to very limited police and judicial resources and a high crime 
rate, suspects often were held in pretrial detention for lengthy periods. Although 
pretrial detention is subject to strict judicial review through continuing pretrial 
consultations, the slow pace of police investigations, particularly in locating 
witnesses, and occasional political interference or police corruption frequently 
delayed cases for months. In addition circuit court sittings were infrequent because 
of shortages of judges and travel funds. Police held some detainees for up to two 
years because of the shortage of judges. 

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial 

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government 
generally respected judicial independence. 

Trial Procedures 

The legal system is based on English common law. The law provides for a 
presumption of innocence and due process, including a public trial, and the court 
system generally enforced these provisions. The country does not have a jury 
system, and judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Defendants have the right to 
an attorney, the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against 
them, and the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The Public 
Solicitor provides legal counsel for those accused of "serious offenses" (charges 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


for which a sentence of two years or more is the norm) who are unable to afford 
counsel. Defendants and their attorneys may confront witnesses, present evidence, 
access government-held evidence, plead cases, and appeal convictions. The law 
extends these rights to all citizens. The shortage of judges created delays in both 
the process of trials and the rendering of decisions. 

Political Prisoners and Detainees 

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees. 

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies 

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, from which 
individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations. 
District courts may order "good behavior bonds," commonly called "protection 
orders," in addition to ordering that compensation be paid for violations of human 
rights. Courts had difficulty enforcing judgments. In addition, village courts, 
which were largely unregulated, handled many human rights matters. Village and 
district courts often hesitated to interfere directly in domestic matters. Village 
courts regularly ordered that compensation be paid to an abused spouse's family in 
cases of domestic abuse rather than issue a domestic court order. 

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence 

Although the constitution prohibits such actions, there were instances of abuse. 
Police raids and searches of illegal squatter settlements and homes of suspected 
criminals often were marked by a high level of violence and property destruction. 
Police units operating in highland regions sometimes used intimidation and 
destruction of property to suppress tribal fighting. 

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 

a. Freedom of Speech and Press 

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government 
generally respected these rights in practice. All newspapers included a variety of 
editorial viewpoints and reported on controversial topics. There was no evidence 
of officially sanctioned government censorship, although newspaper editors 
complained of intimidation tactics aimed at influencing coverage. 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


Violence or Harassment: There were some examples of police officers targeting 
journalists who negatively covered police activities. 

In July an angry mob of supporters led by then East Sepik Governor Peter Wararau 
Waranaka confronted newsroom staff members at a provincial head office for the 
National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). The governor, his driver, and a group 
of supporters reportedly converged on the NBC East Sepik broadcast compound 
and singled out news journalists for verbal abuse and threats. The incident came a 
day after a reporter had filed a report on a petition signed by 12 candidates in East 
Sepik Province, listing allegations of fiscal and official abuse of position. The 
reporter said he had been invited to meet with the governor since the incident but 
was again verbally abused. 

Internet Freedom 

There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or credible reports 
that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms without judicial 
oversight. Individuals and groups could engage in the expression of views via the 
Internet, including by e-mail. 

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events 

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events. 

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, but the 
government often limited these rights in practice due to threats of persons with 
criminal intent taking advantage of large gatherings to create public disturbances. 

Freedom of Assembly 

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly; however, the government often 
limited this right. Public demonstrations require police approval and a 14 day 
notice. Asserting a fear of violence from unruly spectators, police rarely gave 
approval. If public demonstrations occurred without approval from police, police 
normally used loud hailers to request crowds to disperse; failing that, and if 
violence or public disturbances pursued, police used tear gas and fired shots in the 
air to disperse crowds. 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


Freedom of Association 

The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally 
respected this right in practice. 

c. Freedom of Religion 

See the Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report at 
www.state.goWi/dr/irf/rpt . 

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of 
Refugees, and Stateless Persons 

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, 
emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights 
in practice. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High 
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in 
providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, 
returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. 

Protection of Refugees 

Access to Asylum : The country's law do not formally provide for the granting of 
asylum or refugee status. The government has, however, established an ad hoc 
system for providing protection to refugees and has registered individuals from 
West Papua residing in the East Awin as refugees under that system. On 
September 8, the government signed a formal agreement with Australia to allow 
for Australia to send asylum seekers to Manus Island for processing only. The 
media reported that approximately 181 asylum seekers had been transferred to 
Manus Island at year's end. According to media reports, the asylum seekers 
included Sri Lankans, Afghans, Iranians, Pakistanis, and Iraqis. 

Durable Solutions : Authorities granted registered refugees residing in the East 
Awin refugee settlement a certificate of identity that allowed them to travel freely 
within the country and to West Papua. 

Temporary Protection : The government provided temporary protection to 
individuals who may not qualify as refugees. With support from the UNHCR, the 
government continued to provide protection to approximately 2,300 persons 
residing at the East Awin refugee settlement who fled the Indonesian province of 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya). Another 5,000 such persons, classified by the 
government as "border crossers," lived in villages adjacent to the border with 
Indonesia, and approximately 2,400 lived in urban areas, including the capital, 
Port Moresby. 

Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their 

The constitution provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, 
and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic but flawed elections 
based on universal suffrage. 

Elections and Political Participation 

Recent Elections : The most recent general election took place in June. Bribery, 
voter intimidation, and undue influence were widespread in some parts of the 
country during the election. After the election the National Court registered 
136 election petitions that alleged illegal practices. At year's end all the petitions 
were still before the courts. 

Political Parties : Political parties could operate without restriction or outside 
influence. However, tribal influences in politics often limited the political 
participation of women as many were expected to vote along tribal and family 
lines. In some areas tribal leaders determined which candidate a tribe would 
support and used their influence to ensure that the entire tribe voted for that 

Participation of Women and Minorities : No law limits political participation by 
women, but the deeply rooted patriarchal culture impeded women's full 
participation in political life. There were three women in the 1 1 1-seat parliament. 
One served as minister of religion, youth, and community development, one served 
as vice minister for treasury, and one served as a provincial governor. There were 
two female judges of the National and Supreme courts. 

There were four minority (non-Melanesian) members of parliament. Of these, two 
were in the cabinet, and two were provincial governors. 

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the 
government did not always implement the law effectively, and officials often 
engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption at all levels of government 
was a serious problem due to weak public institutions; poor leadership and 
governance; lack of transparency; politicization of the bureaucracy; and misuse of 
public resources to meet traditional clan obligations. 

In September 201 1 the government filed corruption charges against the former 
minister for national planning, Paul Tiensten, for misappropriation of funds, 
conspiracy to defraud the state, and abuse of office. Tiensten fled to Australia but 
returned and was arrested in November. Police rearrested him in the same month 
on further corruption charges for diverting state funds to his own private company. 
At year's end both cases were still before the courts and voters reelected Tiensten 
to parliament. 

In 2010 the government suspended Finance Minister Patrick Pruaitch from office 
after the Supreme Court ruled that under the law an official referred to a leadership 
tribunal for allegations of official misconduct is automatically suspended from 
office. Pruaitch had been referred to such a tribunal. He appealed the referral, the 
suspension was overturned, and he was reinstated as minister for finance and 
treasury until August 201 1 when there was a change in government. At year's end 
the case was pending the court's decision on Pruaitch' s application for a stay order 
against the Ombudsman Commission's decision to refer his case to the public 
prosecutor. Voters returned Pruaitch to parliament during the national elections, 
leading to his appointment as minister for forest and climate change. 

Public officials are subject to financial disclosure laws as stipulated in the 
leadership code of conduct. The Ombudsman Commission monitored and verified 
disclosures. The Ombudsman Commission's mandate included administration of 
the Leadership Code, which required leaders to declare, within three months of 
assuming office (to be repeated annually), their assets, liabilities, third-party 
sources of income, gifts and all beneficial interests in companies, including shares, 
directorships, and business transactions. Declarations are not made available to the 
public. Sanctions for noncompliance range from fines to imprisonment. 

The Ombudsman Commission and Public Accounts Committee are key 
organizations responsible for combating government corruption. The Ombudsman 
Commission's is mandated to investigate alleged misconduct by governmental 
bodies, alleged discriminatory practices by any person or government body, and 
alleged misconduct in office by public officials under the Leadership Code. 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


The constitution provides for the Ombudsman Commission's independence. The 
Public Accounts Committee was a permanent parliamentary committee established 
by the Constitution with a mandate to examine and report to the parliament on 
public accounts and national property. The Ombudsman Commission met 
regularly with civil society and at times, initiated action based on input received. 
Although civil society organizations began to engage with individual members of 
the Public Accounts Committee, the committee was less receptive to public input 
and generally did not seek to engage with civil society. The Public Accounts 
Committee generally operated independently of government influence, but lack of 
trained staff hindered its effectiveness. Neither body had sufficient resources to 
carry out its respective mission. 

No law provides for public access to government information. The government 
published frequent public notices in national newspapers and occasional reports on 
specific issues facing the government; however, it generally was not responsive to 
individual requests, including media requests, for access to government 

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 

A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated 
without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on 
human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and 
responsive to their views. 

Government Human Rights Bodies : The Ombudsman Commission is responsible 
for investigating alleged misconduct and defective administration by governmental 
bodies, alleged discriminatory practices by any person or body, and alleged 
misconduct in office by leaders under the Leadership Code. While it operated 
without government or political party interference, constraints in staffing resources 
often caused delays in investigations and thus in completion and release of reports. 

On March 19, the Ombudsman Commission referred one of its own 
commissioners, John Nero, to the Office of the Public Prosecutor on charges of 
misconduct in office relating to manipulation of commission minutes, violation of 
commission procedures, and improper benefits claims for dependent children. On 
December 12, the Public Prosecutor's Office referred the matter to the 
Ombudsman Appointment Committee which requested the chief justice to 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


establish a leadership tribunal to investigate the allegations. Establishment of a 
tribunal was pending at year's end. 

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons 

The constitution provides for equal protection under the law irrespective of race, 
tribe, place of origin, color, or sex; however, enforcement of the provisions was not 


Rape and Domestic Violence : Violence against women, including gang rape and 
domestic violence, was a serious and prevalent problem. Rape, including spousal 
rape, is a crime punishable by imprisonment ranging from 15 years to life 
imprisonment, and prison sentences were imposed on convicted assailants, but few 
rapists were apprehended. The willingness of some communities to settle incidents 
of rape through material compensation rather than criminal prosecution made the 
crime difficult to combat. The legal system allows village chiefs to negotiate the 
payment of compensation in lieu of trials for rapists. 

Domestic violence is criminalized yet existed at high levels throughout the country 
and was generally committed with impunity. There is no specific domestic 
violence provision in the Criminal Code. Two possible charges could be imposed 
in such cases: common assault, which carries a maximum penalty of six months' 
imprisonment, or aggravated assault, which carries a maximum penalty of 
12 months' imprisonment. Since most communities viewed domestic violence as a 
private matter, few victims pressed charges, and prosecutions were rare. 
Widespread sexual violence committed by police officials and unresponsiveness of 
these officials to complaints of sexual or domestic violence deterred reporting by 
both women and men. Traditional village mores, which often served as deterrents 
against violence, were weak and largely absent when youths moved from their 
villages to larger towns or to the capital. According to Amnesty International (AI), 
approximately two-thirds of women in the country have been struck by their 
partners, with the number approaching 100 percent in parts of the Highlands. AI 
reported that there were only three shelters for abused women in Port Moresby, all 
privately run; the situation was worse outside the capital. Violence committed 
against women by other women frequently stemmed from domestic disputes. In 
areas where polygyny was customary, authorities charged an increasing number of 
women with murdering one of their husband's other wives. Independent observers 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


indicated that approximately 90 percent of women in prison had been convicted for 
attacking or killing another woman. 

Sexual Harassment : Sexual harassment was not illegal, and it was a widespread 

Reproductive Rights : Under the country' s family planning policy, couples and 
individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, 
and timing of their children free from violence and coercion. However, in practice 
the decision of the husband or male partner on such matters usually prevailed over 
the wishes of the woman. Although women did not face barriers stemming from 
the law or government policy to accessing contraception and adequate prenatal, 
obstetric, and postnatal care, access in practice was hindered by logistical problems 
faced by the Health Department in distributing supplies. Medical facilities also 
were limited in their capacity to provide adequate services to the growing 
population. According to indicators published by the Population Research Bureau, 
26 percent of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 used some form of 
contraception. The country's estimated maternal mortality ratio exceeded 250 
deaths per 100,000 live births. This was due in part to traditional practices that 
encourage at-home births without skilled birth attendants, poor pre-natal care, and 
the unavailability of professional health care in isolated rural communities. 

Discrimination : Although laws have provisions for extensive rights for women 
dealing with family, marriage, and property disputes, women did not have the same 
legal status and rights as men, and gender discrimination existed at all levels. 
Although some women achieved senior positions in business, the professions, and 
the civil service, traditional discrimination against women persisted. Many 
women, even in urban areas, were considered second-class citizens. Women 
continued to face severe inequalities in all spheres of life: social, cultural, 
economic, and political. There was no employment antidiscrimination law. 

Village courts tended to impose jail terms on women found guilty of adultery while 
penalizing men lightly or not at all. The law requires district courts to endorse 
orders for imprisonment before the sentence is imposed, and circuit-riding National 
Court justices frequently annulled such village-court sentences. Polygyny and the 
custom in many tribal cultures of paying a "bride price" tended to reinforce the 
view that women were property. In addition to being purchased as brides, women 
sometimes were given as compensation to settle disputes between clans, although 
the courts have ruled that such settlements denied the women their constitutional 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


In March the UN special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, 
visited the country and reported that violence against women was a "pervasive 
phenomenon" and cultural practices like bride price and polygamy exacerbated the 
problem. She found women lacked access to the justice systems as police and 
prosecutors did not have the resources or skills to deal with the issue. The 
Ministry of Religion, Youth, and Community Development is responsible for 
women's issues and has considerable influence over the government's policy 
toward women. 


Birth Registration : Citizenship is derived through birth to a citizen parent. In 
practice birth registration did not occur immediately due to the remote locations in 
which many births took place. Failure to register did not generally impact access 
to public services such as education or health care. 

Education : Primary education was free, but not compulsory or universal. Many 
children did not progress further than primary school. In 201 1 the government 
abolished school fees for students up to grade 10 and introduced subsidies for 
grades 1 1 and 12, and for university and other tertiary colleges. Primary and 
secondary education completion rates tended to be slightly higher for boys than for 
girls. This is due to cultural and social barriers including the burden placed on 
girls of family care, domestic responsibilities and customary marriage. Recent 
reports confirm that girls were at high risk of domestic and sexual violence, sexual 
harassment in schools, commercial exploitation and HIV, which posed serious 
threats to their education. 

Child Abuse : Sexual abuse of children was believed to be frequent. Independent 
sources confirmed that in two major cities, 1,000 or more cases of child sexual 
abuse were reported in 2009. Incest is a crime and reportedly increased in 

Child Marriage : The legal age for marriage is 18 for boys and 16 for girls. There 
is a lower legal marriage age (16 for boys and 14 for girls) with parental and court 
consent. However, customary and traditional practices allow marriage of children 
as young as age 12, and child marriage was common in many traditional, isolated 
rural communities. Child brides frequently were taken as additional wives or given 
as brides to pay family debts and often were used as domestic servants. Child 
brides were particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse. Lack of resources and 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


access to remote regions hampered the government's ability to take steps to 
prevent child marriages and enforce existing laws. 

Sexual Exploitation of Children : The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The 
maximum penalty for violators is 25 years' imprisonment or, if the child is under 
age 12, life imprisonment. Child pornography is illegal; penalties range from a 
minimum of five to a maximum of 15 years' imprisonment, but enforcement 
remained a problem. There were cases of commercial sexual exploitation of 
children in urban areas, including minors working in bars and nightclubs. There 
were reports that children were also exploited through the production of 
pornography and were trafficked both internally and from neighboring countries. 
HRW documented numerous instances of police abuse of children. 

International Child Abductions : The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague 
Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. 


There was no known Jewish community in the country, and there were no reports 
of anti-Semitic acts. 

Trafficking in Persons 

See the Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report at 
www.state.goWj/tip . 

Persons with Disabilities 

Although the constitution prohibits discrimination against persons with physical or 
mental disabilities, there are no antidiscrimination laws. Persons with physical, 
sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities faced discrimination in employment, 
education, access to health care, air travel and other transportation, and provision 
of other state services. No legislation mandates accessibility to buildings, and 
most buildings were not accessible. There were no policies or programs to assist 
persons with disabilities in obtaining access to communications and information. 
Generally families took care of persons with disabilities at home, and there were 
no reports of abuse in educational or mental health facilities. Children with 
disabilities suffered from the under-resourced educational system and attended 
school in disproportionately low numbers. 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


Through the National Board for the Disabled, the government granted funds to a 
number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that provided services to 
persons with disabilities. The government provided free medical consultations and 
treatment for persons with mental disabilities, but such services were rarely 
available outside major cities. In several provinces, apart from the traditional clan 
and family system, services and health care for persons with disabilities did not 
exist. Most persons with disabilities did not find training or work outside the 
family structure. 

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 

Centuries-old animosities among isolated tribes, a persistent cultural tradition of 
revenge for perceived wrongs, and the lack of police enforcement sometimes 
resulted in violent tribal conflict in the highland areas. During the year tribal 
fighting continued in the highlands provinces. Deaths resulting from such conflicts 
continued to rise due to the increased availability of modern weapons. 

The government did not undertake prosecutions related to tribal violence that 
occurred in September and October of 201 1 in the Eastern Highlands and Enga 
provinces, resulting in the deaths of at least 22 people. In September members of 
the Moge Komunuka clan in the Western Highlands Province killed a man from 
Enga Province after he reportedly raped an 1 1 -year-old girl from the Moge 
Komunaka tribe. On November 3, the Moge Komuaka tribe paid more than 
K6,000 ($2,450) to relatives of the man from Enga as compensation and an 
apology for his murder. 

On November 28, police reported that settlers from the Sepik Province burned 
eight houses belonging to the Zinaba people of Morobe in an ongoing ethnic 
conflict between the two groups. In retaliation the Zinabas attacked the Sepiks on 
December 2, torching seven houses in the process. Police reportedly intervened to 
curtail the situation by advising both groups to retreat, but heavily intoxicated 
youth refused to listen and continued burning houses, Homemade guns were 
among the weapons being used in the fight, making it difficult for the 
undermanned police to effectively control the situation. Police could not confirm 
the main cause of the violence. 

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual 
Orientation and Gender Identity 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


Consensual same-sex sexual relations and acts of "gross indecency" between male 
persons are illegal. The maximum penalty for same-sex sexual relations is 
14 years' imprisonment, and for acts of gross indecency between male persons (a 
misdemeanor), three years. However, there were no reports of prosecutions 
directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) persons under these 
provisions during the year. There were no specific reports of societal violence or 
discrimination against LGBT persons, but they were vulnerable to societal 
stigmatization, which may have led to underreporting. 

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination 

There were no reports of government discrimination against persons with 
HIV/ AIDS; however, there was a strong societal stigma attached to HIV/ AIDS 
infection that prevented some individuals from seeking HIV/AIDS-related 
services. The nongovernmental Business Coalition against HIV/ AIDS and other 
NGOs worked to combat discrimination against persons with HIV/ AIDS. 

There were numerous press reports during the year of vigilante killings and abuses, 
some of which were related to alleged involvement in sorcery and witchcraft. For 
example, in March bodies of two men suspected of being sorcerers were found at 
Gobadik village in the Nawaeb District of Morobe Province after they were killed 
by a large group of men. AI reported that women were six times more likely to be 
accused of witchcraft than men. 

Section 7. Worker Rights 

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining 

The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, protects the right 
of workers in the public and private sectors to form and join independent unions, 
conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively; however, the government may 
intervene in strikes and collective bargaining processes. These laws do not cover 
workers in the informal sector. 

The law requires that unions register with the Department of Labor and Industrial 
Relations (DLIR). Although the law provides the right to strike, the government 
may, and often did, intervene in labor disputes forcing arbitration before workers 
could legally strike. Under the law the government has discretionary power to 
intervene in collective bargaining by canceling arbitration awards or declaring 
wage agreements void when they are contrary to government policy. 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


The law prohibits both retaliation against strikers and antiunion discrimination by 
employers against union leaders, members, and organizers. However, that 
prohibition does not extend to workers in the informal sector. The law does not 
provide for reinstatement of workers dismissed for union activity. In the case of 
retaliation or unlawful dismissal for union activity, an employer may be fined and 
the court may order the reinstatement of the employee and reimbursement of any 
lost wages. If an employer fails to comply with such direction, the court may order 
ongoing imprisonment or fines until compliance is achieved. 

The DLIR was responsible for enforcing labor laws but did so selectively. The 
DLIR did not always act to prevent retaliation against strikers or protect workers 
from antiunion discrimination. The ineffectiveness can be attributed to lack of 
sufficient manpower and resources in the Labor Department. 

Workers exercised the right to form and join unions in practice. The government 
did not use registration to control unions; however, an unregistered union has no 
legal standing and thus cannot operate effectively. Unions were independent of 
both the government and political parties. 

Employees of some government-owned enterprises went on strike on several 
occasions during the year, primarily to protest against privatization policies or in 
pay disputes. In most cases the strikes were brief and ineffective due to temporary 
agreements reached between the government and workers. 

Workers in both the public and private sectors engaged in collective bargaining. 
The DLIR and the courts were involved in dispute settlement. There were no 
reports of violations of collective bargaining rights. 

During the year antiunion practices were widespread in the logging industry, which 
was known for extremely low wages and poor working conditions, including debt 
bondage and cramped and nonhygienic accommodation of workers. 

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 

The constitution prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the 
government did not effectively enforce such laws, and there were reports that 
forced labor occurred in practice. There were no significant government efforts to 
prevent and eliminate forced labor during the year. 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


There were instances of women and children forced into involuntary domestic 
servitude (see section I.e.), often by members of their immediate family or tribe, 
and of men forced to work in logging and mining camps. There were also reports 
of a growing number of foreign workers, particularly from China and other Pacific 
nations, entering the country illegally and being subjected to conditions of forced 
labor in mines and logging camps and in commercial sexual exploitation. The 
Foreign Seafarer' s Act provides that noncitizen crew of a foreign registered ship 
who fail to join a ship during its time in the country may on order of a judge or 
magistrate apprehend the crew member and place the crew members at the disposal 
of the diplomatic representative of the country in which the ship is registered (or if 
no such representation exists in the country, the ship's owner or representative) for 
the purpose of returning him to the ship. 

See the Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report at . 

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment 

The law establishes the minimum working age as 16; for hazardous work, which is 
still undefined in the law, the minimum age is 18. Children between the ages of 1 1 
and 18 may be employed in a family business or enterprise, provided they have 
parental permission, a medical clearance, and a work permit from a labor office. 
This type of employment was rare, except in subsistence agriculture. Work by 
children between the ages of 1 1 and 16 must not interfere with school attendance. 
The DLIR is responsible for enforcing child labor laws; however, enforcement was 
not effective due to lack of resources and weak penalties. The Minimum Age 
(Sea) Act is in force but its provisions on age are superseded by provisions of other 
laws. The minimum age for all work, including on boats is 16 (or 18 for undefined 
hazardous work). 

There were children selling cigarettes, food, CDs, and DVDs on the street and in 
grocery stores near mining and logging camps. Some children (primarily girls) 
worked long hours as domestic servants in private homes, often to repay a family 
debt to the "host" family. In some cases the host family was a relative who had 
informally "adopted" the child. There were reports of child prostitution. 

Also see the U.S. Department of Labor's Findings on the Worst Forms of Child 
Labor at . 

d. Acceptable Conditions of Work 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 


The minimum wage was K100.80 (approximately $40.00) per week for workers in 
all sectors, including new entrants into the labor force between the ages of 16 and 
21. The law regulates minimum wage levels, allowances, rest periods, holiday 
leave, and overtime. The law limits the workweek to 42 hours per week in urban 
areas and 44 hours per week in rural areas, and it provides for premium pay for 
overtime work. There is no prohibition on excessive compulsory overtime. The 
law provides for at least one rest period of 24 consecutive hours every week. 
Labor laws do not apply to workers in the informal sector. 

The DLIR is responsible for enforcing the laws on minimum wage and hours of 
work, the Industrial Health and Safety Law, and related regulations. The law 
requires inspection of work sites on a regular basis; however, due to a shortage of 
inspectors, inspections took place only when requested by workers or unions. 
During the year there were 18 occupational health and safety and 15 industrial 
relations inspectors. Although the DLIR and the courts attempted to enforce the 
laws on minimum wage and hours of work, they were not effective, in part due to 
insufficient penalties to deter violations. The penalty is a fine not exceeding K100 
($41.00). In the case of a second or subsequent offence, that is a continuing 
offence, the person will be liable for a fine not exceeding K10 (approximately 
$4.00) for each day or part of a day for which the offense continues. Where a 
person fails to obey an order, direction, or requirement lawfully made or given 
under the Industrial Relations Act, the court imposing the penalty may, in its 
discretion and in addition to any penalty imposed, order the individual to be 
imprisoned until the order in respect of which the penalty is imposed is obeyed. 

Violations of wage, overtime, and occupational safety and health laws and 
regulations were common in the logging, agricultural, and construction sectors due 
to the government' s lack of manpower to continuously monitor working conditions 
in these sectors. Workers in these sectors were also subject to hazardous and 
exploitative conditions. There were a total of 108 inspectors during the year. 

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 
United States Department of State • Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor